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Five Affordable Classic Cars

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A few years ago my wife and I sold our car on Craiglist. That was the beginning of a hobby for me as I took to regularly scanning Craigslist on my smartphone. My favorite thing to look for is old muscle cars, particularly classic Corvettes. (Craigslist is actually where I found the Corvette I bought).

A lot of people love the idea of buying an old car and driving it on the weekends, but they think that classic cars are too expensive to buy and maintain. They certainly can be if you want a show quality car or if you buy a lemon, but if you are happy with a driver quality car, classics can be surprisingly affordable.

Here are some other common concerns about classic cars:

  • Classics are more expensive to insure. Not always true, especially if it is only a weekend driver. Look into classic car insurance from a company that specializes in it (my Vette is insured through Hagerty), and shop around. Classics, even sports cars and muscle cars, are often cheaper to insure than newer vehicles. I pay $200 a year for full coverage and no deductible on my 1973 Corvette.
  • Old cars break down. All cars break down if you don’t take care of them. But many classics are actually easier and less expensive to repair than many newer vehicles, and they don’t have expensive computers to replace or reprogram. Find a good mechanic and invest in a thorough inspection before buying the vehicle.
Buying a classic car isn’t for everyone though, so we put together these classic car buying tips to help you decide if it is for you. If you think it is, then check out some of these classics, all of which can be had for less than $10,000.

Five Classic Cars for Under $10,000 Each

There are several classic cars which can be had for less than $10,000. Whether you are looking for a daily driver or a car for cruising on the weekends, this is a low enough threshold that it should be affordable for many people. Here are a few of my favorites.

Chevrolet Corvette, C3 model $5,000 – $10,000+

1973 Corvette Stingray

It's not perfect, but I picked up my '73 Vette for less than $6k

Chevy Corvettes are one of my favorite classic vehicles, particularly the third generation Corvette (C3), which was in production from 1968 – 1982. Of these, my favorites are the 1968-1973 body styles, commonly referred to as the bumper cars because these models featured chrome bumpers, which were later phased out for safety reasons. The 1968-1973 models generally demand a premium, but it is relatively common to find a nice 1974-1982 base model Vette in the $5,000-$10,000 range, and sometimes for slightly less, depending on condition, miles, and originality.

You will pay a premium for convertibles, numbers matching cars, big block engines, premium paint, and other options. But if all you want is a nice ride with the look and sound of a classic car, then you can find a nice Vette at a reasonable price.

Ford Mustang – 60′s and 70′s models for under $10,000

Classic Mustang Convertible

My Mom's favorite classic car

The Ford Mustang is an iconic part of the American Auto Industry, and for good reason – it changed the way many Americans look at their cars. The Mustang blended performance and fun into an affordable package and it was an instant hit. The best part of owning a Mustang is that you get to own a piece of that great American Mustang tradition and it doesn’t have to hurt your wallet. $10,000 can get you a decent Mustang from the mid 60s through the early 2000s, sometimes including convertibles. Replacement parts are both inexpensive and plentiful and the older models are easy to work on in your garage.

Volkswagen Beetle – the “VW Bug” – $3,000 and up

Vintage VW Beetle

The classic VW Beetle

When you think of the VW Beetle, the image of Herbie the Love Bug or hippies might come to mind. But did you know the VW Bug is actually one of the world’s most popular cars? The Beetle was produced between 1938 and 2003, and sold over 21 million cars worldwide. They are small, inexpensive to own, easy to work on, and easy to customize. (I had a friend in college who owned a blue Beetle with the Superman logo on the hood. It was bad-ass!). You can find a running version of a VW Bug for well under $5,000, or you can get one that is all original or highly customized for considerably more than that.

MGB Roadster and MG Midget – $5,000 and up

Classic MGB Roadster

Small, nimble, and incredibly fun to drive!

My dad is a fan of the old British sports cars. They are small, low to the ground, and incredibly fun to drive.  The MGB Roadster and MG Midget remain popular to this day, with a variety of online forums and clubs around the US. They are also surprisingly affordable to purchase, and even though they weren’t produced in massive quantities, replacement parts aren’t too difficult to come by – in part because they share many common components with other vehicles.

Triumph Spitfire $4,000 and up

Classic Triumph Spitfire

Triumph Spitfire - small, sporty, and fun!

Another British sports car makes this list, this time from Triumph, a well-known motorcycle manufacture. The Triumph Spitfire was a small and nimble car, light on horsepower, but high on fun. This two seat roadster can be found in driving condition with good paint for a few thousand dollars, and in excellent condition for less than $10,000. Like the MGs, there are plenty of replacement parts to be found, making this a car you drive without worrying about it breaking down. There are also Triumph fan clubs and forums, which add to the community and fun factor of owning one of these cars.

Owning a Classic Car Can be a Fun and Affordable Hobby

Many people still believe you need to have a lot of money to own a fun car, and that simply isn’t the case. These five cars are just a few of the dozens of affordable classic cars which can be found for less than $10,000. If you are interested in owning a fun car, then my recommendation is to just start looking into it. Scan the classifieds in your local paper ad online, check eBay, magazines like AutoTrader, and talk to people you know. With a little research, you should be able to find a fun and affordable car which you can be proud to drive.

Photo credits: Corvette (author), Mustang – archer10 (Dennis), VW Beetle - rodrigoneves, MGB – Ham Hock, Spitfire – Martin Pettitt.


Published or updated June 13, 2012.
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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Emily Guy Birken

My first car was a 1972 Volkswagen Super Beetle, with a “semi-automatic” (shifter but no clutch) transmission. I loved that car past the point of sanity. Sadly, it really needed a lot more work than I could afford, and despite my family’s hope that owning such a vehicle would bring out some latent grease monkey tendencies, I was simply not mechanical enough to handle it. I only drove Fenchurch (and yes, I named my car) for a year, but it was a really memorable one.

http://community.stretcher.com/blogs/live_like_a_mensch/archive/2011/11/30/a-tale-of-five-vehicles-part-1-the-volkswagen-beetle.aspx

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2 Ryan Guina

Awesome car! I’ve always had a soft spot for the Beetles, but I’ve never owned one. I’ve owned or driven a lot of similar small cars though. Even though they lack the creature comforts of many other cars, they make up for it in fun factor and style. :)

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3 Emily Guy Birken

I actually got an undeserved A on my report card because of how fun my car was. Mr. Mose, my 11th grade Physics teacher saw me getting into my Beetle one afternoon–the day before grades were due. He was thrilled to see a student driving one, and we chatted for about 20 minutes about how fun Beetles are, although he said “I wouldn’t want to drive to New York in one!” The following week, my Physics grade on the report card was an A, even though according to my calculations, I’d earned an 89% for the quarter.

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4 Josh @ Live Well Simply

I didn’t realize you could still get these classics for so cheap. The maintenance on them must be a pain though. :)

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5 Ryan Guina

Josh, the maintenance on many of these cars is surprisingly inexpensive. Many of them use common parts which as less expensive than similar parts on more modern vehicles, and you don’t have to worry about expensive computers going out, which can easily run close to a grand on many newer vehicles. Many of these older cars are also easier to work on, with more room in the engine bay to get tools in and out of, no diagnostic tests to run for fault codes, and simpler mechanics in general. As long as you get an inspection on the car before you buy it and make sure most of the big/expensive items are good to go (engine, trans, shocks, etc.), then you probably won’t run into many very expensive repairs as long as you take care of it.

That said, many of the cars on this list are 30 and 40 year old cars, so little things can and do pop up. So you run the risk of being nickle and dimed if you get a car that needs a lot of little things.

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6 krantcents

Owning a classic or antique car is one of my dreams, although it seems like an expensive hobby. Unfortunately, I no longer have space to store it either. Maybe, some day I will do it. I am partial to one of the early (60′s) corvettes.

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7 Ryan Guina

If you want one of the early 60′s Vettes, then it will definitely be an expensive hobby! But I have seen many mid-late 60s Vettes (c2 model) in the low $20k range. That is still expensive of course, but it is affordable for many people (still a little out of my range!). You can find many other classic and antique cars for less than $10k, and sometimes in nice condition in the $4-7k range. It all depends on what kind of car you are looking for and what your budget is.

Space is also an important consideration. I wanted a Corvette several years ago, but we had a two car garage, and my wife and I both worked at the time. Corvettes don’t make great year-round vehicles up north, so I didn’t pursue one at that time. But I started to consider it my seriously once we bought our current home with a 3 car garage. Some people also keep them in storage during winters, and park them in their garage in nicer weather (and park their daily driver outside), but I never liked the idea of going that route. Nothing wrong with it, just not my preference.

Anyway, if it is your dream, then just casually browse classic car websites, classifies, or magazines just to get an idea what the market is. You may be able to find something affordable and low maintenance, or you may decide it isn’t for you. It’s also good to talk to your wife and see what she thinks. She may enjoy the idea of going out for cruise nights or ice cream in an antique vehicle. They are great conversation starters and a lot of fun!

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